ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – After missing the last two games, defensive captain Wesley Woodyard was back on the field Sunday against the Washington Redskins.
"I didn't know how long I could coach over there on the sideline," Woodyard said after the game. "It felt good to be out there with my teammates, playing this game that I love to play and I feel (like) myself now."
Woodyard picked up five total tackles and had a quarterback hit, but his return added more than what shows up on the stat sheet. His leadership was important as the team found itself down by two scores early in the second half.
"Being our leader, he takes charge," defensive tackle Terrance Knighton said of Woodyard. "He was telling guys, 'Keep your head up, get your hands off your hips and let's win this game.' We've got a lot of faith in him, we've got a lot of faith in ourselves and we're just happy we came out with a win and played that well."
The defense didn't allow the Redskins to score again after that point, as the final score was 45-21. In fact, the Broncos only allowed 110 yards in the second half and turned the Redskins over five times with a fumble recovery and four interceptions.
Woodyard said that he told the team that this was the kind of game where they needed to continue doing what they had been practicing all week, which meant "playing fast, sound football."
CONVERTING ON FOURTH DOWN
The Broncos doubled their season total of fourth-down conversion attempts in the win against the Redskins. In the first seven games, the Broncos had only attempted to convert on two different fourth downs -- both times they succeeded.
Against the Redskins, the Broncos went for it on fourth down twice and, again, converted both. Both proved pivotal in the comeback effort.
Trailing 21-7 in the third quarter, Peyton Manning and tight end Virgil Green couldn't connect on a short third-down play on the Redskins' 20-yard line. The Broncos hurried to the line without huddling and running back Knowshon Moreno picked up 5 yards to move the chains on fourth down.
As evidenced by the no-huddle, Head Coach John Fox never had any doubt about going for it.
"It had to be manageable – if it was going to be fourth-and-10 or fourth-and-8 we would have maybe tried to get three (points)," Fox said. "At the end of the day it was a manageable distance, so that's why we elected to go for it."
The Broncos went on to score a touchdown on that drive and draw within a touchdown.
At the end of the third quarter, the Broncos failed to convert on a third down on the 1-yard-line. When the fourth quarter began, again the Broncos sent out the offense to try to convert on fourth down.
The offense brought out a personnel group with Mitch Unrein, Virgil Green, Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen. Manning faked a handoff and then hit Dreessen, who was open on the right side of the end zone to tie the score.
"I thought it was a great play call in that situation," wide receiver Eric Decker said. "Washington is a team that is hard-nosed, is downhill and if you spread them out a little bit and do some trick-type stuff, we put them in a hard situation. I thought we converted well."
The catch was one of two Dreessen made in the game and his first touchdown of 2013.
"I'm just glad it stuck right to my chest," the tight end said.
BALL'S FIRST SCORE
After the Broncos converted on their first fourth down of the game, it was rookie running back Montee Ball who finished off the drive with a touchdown. Lost in sea of defenders and his own lineman, Ball kept his legs moving and fell across the goal line for a tough 4-yard run.
Ball finished the day with 37 yards and now has 167 on the year.
"I'm very proud for myself for pushing, but it was a collective (effort) by our unit, of them blocking the big guys up front and me following right behind them," Ball said.
That score was the first of 38 unanswered points the Broncos put together on their way to coming back from down 14 to winning by 24. While Ball admitted that you need to bring emotion to the game of football, it was important to keep a level head when the team was trailing.
"Never panic, because that's when things get worse," Ball said. "We made sure to tell everybody to focus on your individual job, worry about what you have to do personally and get it done. I think that was the overall message and you could kind of see that's what happened."